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Wednesday, 9th August 2000

Rushden & Diamonds 2
West Ham United 4

by Adam Makepeace

We took a good following up for this one. Hard to estimate how many exactly but one end was almost completely filled with Hammers and there seemed to be a fair few dotted around elsewhere in the ground.

Nene Park must be without doubt the best non-league ground in the country. Each corner is filled in (although there are no actual seats there) and it all looks very neat and modern. Not that I'm a fan of modern looking football grounds but Nene Park really is a top ground. There are three seated stands and a terrace at one end which the home fans occupy. Only improvement I would make would be to have two ends of terracing instead of one. That and put more than one fricking food place in the whole stand!

On to the football and we put the full first team out for this one in a line-up which included new signing Suker. Rushden and Diamonds looked sharp at the start of the game but any chance of them opening the scoring was put to rest with around 10 minutes gone when Lomas provided a cross for Suker to put away to make it 1-0.

Poalo Di Canio certainly wasn't in the mood for f*cking around when he made a great run before lobbing the goalkeeper, sending the ball into the top corner midway through the second half.

A good first half performance all round and 80% of possession seemed to be in Rushden's half. Spent halftime standing in the food queue for 15 minutes, moving about 6 feet and then giving up.

Not long after the restart Rushden and Diamonds won a free-kick about 20 yards out which one of their players duly proceeded smash into the top corner, hitting the crossbar on it's way in. Shortly afterwards a very poorly defended cross allowed Rushden a free header from 3 yards out which they put away for the equaliser. To be honest we looked extremely dodgy on handling crosses throughout the game which was slightly worrying seeing as we were up against non-league opposition.

Di Canio however had no intention of letting this one go for a draw and when we won a penalty a Paolo special was on the cards. He sent the ball trickling into one corner of the goal and the keeper diving hopelessly towards the other. A loud rendition of Paolo Di Canio Opera Style followed which he returned with a wave and a smile.

However this simply wasn't enough for the goal hungry Di Canio as he proceeded to put the ball into the net from some ridiculously impossible angle and rap up the night's scoring with a hat trick. More (even louder this time) singing of Di Canio's name and another response from Di Canio himself followed before a rendition of Bubbles. Whilst being on the quite side tonight we easily outsung the home fans in the terrace at the opposite end.

All in all another good pre-season performance in a summer which has seen us come away worthy victors in every game except for Celtic at Parkhead. Only disappointments were the defence looking slightly frail at times and both Stuart Pearce and Frank Lampard limping out with injuries. Pearce for one was in great form and appeared to be well over his broken leg.

I have to say I was also very impressed by one of our defenders I was unable to recognise. At one time he made a brilliant 50 yard run up field and was generally on great form all night. Perhaps this was Taylor or one of the trialists? Definitely one to watch anyway.

Finally I've got to say Rushden and Diamonds are the best non-league side I've seen for a long time. Playing like that they won't be a non-league side for much longer.

Up next then is Julian's testimonial at Upton Park. Athletico Bilbao should at least be a proper test for us though whether we are going field the first team or include some old faces remains to be seen. Either way, lets hope we get a good crowd down there Dick's send off. Whilst I can understand people refusing to pay 25 for a friendly and personally feel the price should of been significantly lower it would be a shame to see the game played in a half empty stadium.

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